Neither team played particularly well. I suppose neither team could be categorized as much more than pretty good at this point. The good news for Bama fans is that the Tide continues to show improved effort of the defensive end of the court. The better news is that the Tide coach is exhibiting a continuing willingness to bench the players who don't play hard on defense.
The best news for Bama is that Ronald Steele looks like he is almost back. He defended better, penetrated, scored, dished, and did not turn the ball over. The next best news is that Bama enjoyed balanced scoring. Everyone who played scored. Hendrix came up big, especially early in the game. He also exhibited much quicker feet on defense than I have noticed before. Tubbs hit two crucial three point baskets when the game was on the line. Little Man Hollinger had two rebounds (the official scorer gave him only one but that guys eyes must have been as the idiot zebra under the Kentucky basket in the second half), hit all but one of his clutch free throws, drove effectively toward the basket, and committed no turnovers. Sadly Hollinger's playing time will diminish as Tubbs' increases, but he is a team player and will do what is best for his team.
Davidson, he could not find the basket but his defense underneath the basket was much better today. He still had troubles getting back in transition, but CMG introduced him to Mr. Pine several times to reinforce the lessons taught in recent weeks. JD could come up huge down the stretch if he learns from this discipline and does not sulk. Bama will survive next year, but for JD's sake I hope he "gets" it and quick. It could mean millions of dollars for the Davidson coffers just a few months from now.
Riley was our leading scorer for most, if not all, of the first half. His defense was a bit better. But all our guards looked better today because Kentucky could not buy an outside shot for the first 12 to 15 minutes of the game.
Gee was a real disappointment. When he does pass he ball into the paint, he is more likely to earn a turnover than an assist. But he probably did not make anything other than an outlet or escape pass all day. His shot was off, he could not drive on his man, and he played porous defense much of the day. Sure, Gee and Riley both had big steals during the game, but Hendrix probably grabbed as many balls back from the Kats under the basket as those two combined.
I am concerned for Gee. CMG had to sit him early and often for refusing to play defense. On one occasion CMG pulled him about a minute after having put him back in. CMG tried to talk to him as he came off the court, but Gee just walked to his place on the bench and sat down. I hope he is not developing a Grizzardesque attitude. That could be disasterous for him. It would be even more disasterous for CMG if he tolerates it. I hope I am overreacting and things are not as bad as they seemed at the time. Maybe a video of the game would change my mind but I forgot to turn on my recorder.
It's always good to beat Kentucky. I don't know how much longer they will tolerate their coach. Tubby Smith is an excellent motivator and floor general. I hear the UK fans are upset with the kids he recruits. If Rod Barnes and T.R. Dunn are not available, maybe David Hobbs would come back and be Bama's defensive coach again.
The end of the season still is a mystery. I really hope the fans, Wendell Hudson and Mal Moore remember that this is the seventh or eighth straight year that CMG has put us through this midseason meltdown before apparently turning things around. We could and should have been a third or fourth seed in the Big Dance this year instead of a bubble team if CMG had used his bench and preached defense all season long.
This was a fun win but I hope Mal Moore noticed all the empty seats. Why was the student section not filled when UK came to visit? I don't know, but I suspect it's because the students never know whether their team is going to lay an egg. They should have showed up this afternoon. I rather wish I had not showed up when the Pigs were here.
One great thing about college basketball is that you always can finish strong and sometimes you can finish strong enough to make a splash. I hope we do both. But I don't intend to forget that the splash just washed the egg that remained on our faces after the disasters at Notre Dame, Arkansas and API.